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Truffles, Nutella and wine: Take a ready-made rail adventure around Italy’s Piedmont region

Six return train services are now running on weekdays between the towns of Asti and Alba
Six return train services are now running on weekdays between the towns of Asti and Alba Copyright Kym Ellis
Copyright Kym Ellis
By Rebecca Ann Hughes
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Six return train services are now running on weekdays between the towns of Asti and Alba.

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Italy’s northwestern Piedmont region is a land of vineyard-draped hills, truffle-filled woods and Michelin-starred restaurants.

New rail routes, one of which is already in operation, are making it easier to explore this area by train.

This summer, you can ride the rails between the sparkling wine-producing town of Asti and the white truffle capital Alba.

Next year, more services will let you explore the region’s historic villages.

Take the train to Asti for wine and festivals

At the end of last year, several regional rail routes were revived in Piedmont after a 12-year hiatus.

Six return train services are now running on weekdays between the towns of Asti and Alba.

Asti is famed for the production of Asti Spumante - a fizzy white wine - and Moscato d’Asti, a sparkling dessert wine.

Time your visit for autumn if you want to coincide with the town’s riotous wine festivals including the Douja d’Or and the Festival delle Sagre.

But you don’t have to be a wine lover to enjoy the city. Those with an eye for architecture will appreciate the graceful Baroque Palazzo Alfieri, open as a museum with original interior decorations and furniture, and the medieval Torre Troyana bell tower.

If you visit in September, you’ll find the town buzzing as it hosts the annual Palio horse race in Piazza Campo.

Take the train to Alba for truffles and Nutella

From Asti, hop on the train to Alba, a city internationally known for its annual white truffle fair.

Hunters and their dogs sniff out these prized tubers in the woods around the town and you can try the delicacy in season between October and December in dozens of restaurants and the yearly fair.

You can pair it with the potent wines of the surrounding UNESCO-designed Langhe region such as Barolo and Barbaresco.

The sweet-toothed may be interested to know the chocolate spread Nutella was invented in Alba.

Aside from wining and dining, you can visit the red-brick Romanesque Cathedral of San Lorenzo, which was heavily restored in the 19th century, the 14th-century church of San Domenico and the city’s last remaining medieval towers.

You can make the journey between Asti and Alba into a round route by beginning from and returning to the city of Turin.

New train routes in Piedmont will launch next year

From January 2025, the line between Savigliano and Cuneo will reopen. Savigliano has a pretty centre of arcades and historic townhouses and is home to a train museum.

Cuneo is an elegant city of neoclassical architecture known as the chestnut capital of Italy. Make sure you also try Cuneesi al rhum, small meringues with dark chocolate coating and a rum chocolate filling, and ravioli del plin, small pasta parcels stuffed with meat and vegetables.

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En route between the two destinations, you can hop off at the medieval hillside town of Saluzzo. The centre’s cobbled streets are lined with faded frescoed houses in warm terracottas and reds. Its late Gothic cathedral contains striking wooden Baroque sculptures on the magnificent altar.

Another route set to open early next year connects Ceva - where pretty porticoed streets lead to the grand Baroque cathedral - and Ormea fringed by the dramatic peaks of the Ligurian Alps and the perfect base for exploring the Upper Tanaro Valley on foot or by bike.

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